Well, now that I know, I think it’s a tale worth telling.
This is the story a mother-runner, a techie, and an idea to change the way runners feel about safety – this is the story of the RunSafe App!
Violet, Sharif, and their son Christopher on a morning walk!
It started when Violet Alexandre, the co-founder of premium app-maker RunSafe, called Sharif, her husband and other co-founder of RunSafe, and confirmed his biggest fears.
“That moment will be forever etched in my soul.” Sharif recalls of that day.
The two of them and their young son, Christopher, had just uprooted from Philadelphia and moved to Boulder, Colorado where Violet, “as a non-native,” was still getting acclimated to the new area and exploring different running trails.
“You get on a path,” she explained, “and end up in back areas, and it is really hard to have a sense of where you are.
“There had been a snow storm two days prior,” she illustrated for me in an email, “[and] I was still a little unsure of the various paths.
“I approached an underpass,” she continued, “but I had never run quite that far out on this particular route before and I was contemplating turning around very shortly, and it was almost like on cue at that moment when I was thinking about turning around that I slipped on some black ice.”
Thats when she called.
“I remember her stammering, clearly shaken, letting me know she slipped on some black ice, fell hard and lost control of the stroller.
“I’ve always been concerned about her outdoor runs,” explained Sharif to me in an email, “since she would often go alone in the early morning when it was still dark.And after our son was born and was old enough to be in the stroller I had concerns about them getting hurt in some form or another.”
Yet, he conceded, “knowing her passion for running I knew nothing was going to stop her.”
“So when you first heard from Violet,” I asked, “what was your initial reaction?”
“It was almost too much to take in. Was she OK? Was the baby OK? Where were they? Was anyone around to help?” He was fearing the worst.
“I knew Boulder Creek was directly to my left,” remembered Violet, “and that if the stroller got out of control it would mean my son would fall into a frozen creek. I recall my heart pounding extremely loud in my chest.
“I had the safety strap on my wrist so as I began falling I remember gripping it as tightly as possible. After that, everything is very blurry.
“By some act of God and my holding onto that strap for dear life,” she explained at length, “I was able to keep relative control of the stroller. Christopher never woke up. I got banged up pretty bad. I tore a big hole in my pants and bloodied my hands too.”
Sharif recalls her telling him that “she was bruised pretty badly but assured me that she and the baby were OK to make their way home.”
Needless to say, this disastrous fall could have been much worse, and was still much too close for comfort.
“As a ‘techie’,” Violet wrote “Sharif was immediately seeking solutions so that the next time we went running he would feel more confident.”
THE BIRTH OF AN APP:
“After they came home,” he described to me, “we started talking about how we could prevent something like this from happening in the future.
“I knew I couldn’t stop her from running,” he admitted, “so that wasn’t really an option. It was all about making sure that she was safe on her runs and if something did happen, that we were fully prepared to handle whatever emergency came up.
“When I was looking for apps already out there, what I found were basically what I call glorified panic buttons. They might make a sound or send an alert but that was about it.
“If our app was actually going to be useful to prevent future accidents,” Sharif continued, “its first feature was that it needed to be relevant enough to the person using it so that they would be motivated to use it on a regular basis.
“In this case [for every runner to want to use it regularly] it meant that the app needed to have basic fitness features to track distance, time, pace, etc.”
“My husband was practically instantly activated into action,” Violet recounted.
“As for actual safety features,” he detailed, “the app performs three core functions to help prevent, act, and respond to emergencies.”
With a background in enterprise-level technical architecture, Sharif has had experience working with servers and databases that power both mobile and web applications in different devices, but has never before developed the front-end, user interface that so well embodies the RunSafe App. However, “having that background is what enabled me to build all the safety features that are in the app,” says Sharif.
3 PILLARS OF SAFETY:
“The three core pillars of safety – including “Waze” reporting, “Instant Amber Alert” and the PANIC Button are all included in the app,” Sharif explained.
- The “Waze for Runners,” as Sharif outlines it, is the app feature that prevents accidents. “It would’ve been great if Violet was alerted that she was approaching an are with black ice so that she could’ve avoided it altogether (or the app could have re-routed her),” but there wasn’t an app with that function yet.
- The action phase of the app includes all of the app’s built-in alert and notification features, like the PANIC Button, that help connect the runner with an emergency contact in the event of an accident.
- And as far as the responsive attributes, Sharif chose to create an “Instant Amber Alert” page. “This page can be shared with the contact’s network and serves as a communication hub for all the information that comes in for tips, searchers, etc. Response is giving the contact(s) a means to quickly mobile a search and rescue effort once the emergency is deemed to be real,” said Sharif.
A Boulder-based app making company that started in late 2014, the RunSafe App was designed by Sharif, and the business itself is managed by both he and his wife, Violet. The RunSafe App is a premium safety app, that not only acts as a virtual running buddy, but is also equipped with all of the fitness tracking features you would expect from a GPS-integrated running app.
After his wife, Violet, suffered this terrible fall while running one day near their home, the idea to make this safety-focused app became a reality.
“I realized in a very real way how much I take my safety for granted,” voiced Violet in an email, “but the incident really made me wonder what I could do to be safer and more responsible.
“With RunSafe,” she clarified, “I know now that if something goes wrong I have a life line. I have someone on the other side who knows where I am and can come help if I need it.”
As Sharif recalled fondly, “Violet has been a runner ever since I knew her, and I still do worry about her whether or not she runs with Christopher.
“The difference is that I feel better prepared to handle an emergency if, God forbid, another one happens.”
“With these features,” Violet said, “RunSafe can not only fit the need of keeping individuals and our community safe, but through it, hopefully we can educate and bring awareness about the need to be safe while running as well.”
If you want to download their app for free straight on your phone just text “Hi” to 720-548-2390, or follow the link here!
I have to thank Chris for hosting this blog post on his site, and the co-founders of RunSafe, Violet and Sharif, for sharing their story with me! I hope you guys enjoyed the article!
Along with founding and writing for Runnerstongue.com, Sam Voss writes for RunSafe.me. While looking for a new fitness app to track his runs and share his workouts with friends, he stumbled upon the RunSafe App, and later got in touch with the co-founders, Violet and Sharif, in late 2014. Since then, he has been writing for both blogs, contributing to content marketing on other forums, and composing articles on running, tips, and reviews for everything runner-related. Along with being an avid runner and writer, Sam also enjoys hiking and biking in his free time. Check out more from Sam on Twittter and on the RunSafe Blog!